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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Inside the Online Dating Industry > 015

Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

Online Dating Widgets:
Widgeting Your Way to Success

The newest growing trend for online dating and social networking services is the use of widgets to increase traffic and memberships. If you run or are thinking of starting an online dating service, you'll want to take a hard look at your marketing plan and make sure that widgets are a part of it.

To understand the power of a widget, we must first understand what a widget fully is. The most basic explanation is that a widget is a mini-program that webmasters can easily plug into their Website. For example, a weather widget might be a snippet of code that allows you to place weather reports on your Website or blog. A widget by Reuters delivers Reuters news blurbs to your site.

You know that Easy button you see in Staples commercials? You can download the Easy Button Widget from Staples for quick access to their site. Companies are making it easier for consumers to connect to them through the use of widgets.

Widgets are becoming more popular every day as hundreds of thousands of blog authors and everyday people posting on the Web add "fun" or "useful" widgets to their pages. It's becoming such a popular thing to do that even ComScore is now measuring the effects of widgets.

So how does this apply to the online dating industry?

Some online dating and social networking services are starting to discover the power of widgets first hand.

In an analysis of leading Quantified Publishers, Quantcast (an online traffic measurement service) discovered a dramatic increase in traffic for those publishers that have built and deployed widgets on the Facebook platform.

"Just six weeks into Facebook's open platform initiative, we are seeing striking results," said Konrad Feldman, co-founder and CEO, Quantcast Corporation. "The Facebook platform is driving substantial incremental traffic to application publishers' Web sites, as consumers find new routes to exploring their wares."

When online dating rating service Hot or Not deployed its widgets on Facebook, it saw traffic go from 182,000 unique visitors a day to more than 350,000 unique visitors a day, an increase of 98 percent.

Lets face it... part of being a successful online dating service is keeping up with what the new trends are going to be and jumping on board early. This is a new trend in the online dating industry and the early adaptors will be the ones that benefit the most. But benefiting means creating a widget and if you're not a software developer or Web coder, that may be easier said than done. Yet we live in the age of Internet networking simplicity and your success in creating widgets may be closer and cheaper than you realize.

Enter eLance. Services like eLance connect businesses with talent. They allow software developers to bid on a project you outline. You decide who to hire and when they deliver the goods, you deliver the agreed upon payment. You now have a widget and some kid wiz working from his room now has money for a new iPhone, since he dissected his first one. It's a win-win.

As a publisher, I'm not big on using widgets that don't benefit my sites directly. I see many widgets as a way of funneling traffic through your site to someone else's site. But there are a lot of Webmasters and everyday MySpace/Facebook/Social Networking people who love widgets and don't care about the impact a widget has on their viewership. It's these people that will become tremendous marketers for you if you develop the right widget.

So put on your DaVinci thinking cap and come up with an idea for a great widget to drive people to your service. Get it developed, deploy it, market it, and watch for big returns. Stay on top of the game and learn all you can about this technology and the rewards you reap will be great. Let me know about your success with widgets.

To see what type of widgets are out there, here are three sites I recommend you look at:

1) Yahoo Widgets

2) Apple Dashboard

3) Google Desktop Gadgets

...


Cheers and Jeers
Welcome to Cheers and Jeers where every month we highlight something a person, company, or service is doing in the dating world and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. This week...

Cheers: True.com's Background Checks
It's rare that I give kudos to True.com because there is so much that they do to annoy both online daters and the online dating industry. True.com has a pending class-action lawsuit against it and the number of complaints from members of True.com continues to grow.

But one thing you really have to give True.com kudos for is that they still remain the only major online dating service to do background checks. And in light of a recent warning issued by Online Dating Magazine, those checks are a valuable asset and tool for True.com. When True.com first launched as TrueBeginnings.com, I was a huge fan. It was a safe, clean, and fun service to use. Then came the onslaught of terrible decisions by the company, including expiring lifetime memberships from original members, its controversial ad campaign, its 20 winks feature that sends "false winks" to others and its focus on sex over love.

Now, I am against mandatory background checks by online dating services, but I do wish that more would offer them. While it's not a full-proof solution, it is a step in the right direction. And because True.com has remained faithful to doing these checks, today the company receives a rare kudos from me.

Note: If you know something an online dating service is doing right, please let me know. We are going to be highlighting more of the positives of specific services, providing them with free publicity as a result of their desire to be more user friendly.



Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published once a month.


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